The DVD version of this app is a relatively new purchase for us. I was inspired to buy it after reading research about video modeling, which I reviewed last week. I realize now that I sort of did this backwards by getting the app first; the app is intended to be a portable extension of the DVD after you watch it. Somehow, I suspect I’m not the only one who starts with the free app, however. Regardless of whether or not you have the app, this DVD stands alone perfectly fine, as does the app.
In the traditional sense, videos made for video modeling are usually personalized for the individual with autism by using peers or people familiar to the person with autism in videos to teach a specific skill. In this case, Model Me Kids uses child actors to bring to life what is typically called a “social story” in the autism world. In other words, these videos (like the app) are highly descriptive of each step of story, and teach the person with autism the “script” for how these social scenes happen. (Cognitive psychologists like myself would refer to social stories as schemata; I find myself having to learn a whole new world of jargon now that I’ve become knee-deep in the autism world. Truly, I am too over-educated at this point!)
The video contains the same stories as the app, plus a whole lot more. There are not just six stories (as the app has), but twelve. One difference from the app: the stories are not just told but sung, with songs created by a music therapist. I was initially excited by this idea because Quentin does love music. However, it turns out that the music became very grating to me, personally, because each song seemed exactly like the next. (This is not to say that either of my kids have a problem with the songs. However, as a co-viewer of this video, I feel like I am entitled to insert not just my children’s opinions, but my own.) Fiona told me she likes the songs; because Quentin is non-verbal, I can only guess that he’s okay with them, too.
To get an idea of what it looks like, check out this demo:
The first thing that threw me for a loop is that the Model Me Kids DVD became Fiona’s favorite video. While I don’t typically talk about Quentin’s twin sister, she does play a crucial role in getting us to watch this product. Fiona has no diagnosis of autism, she does struggle with a lot of social anxiety. It turns out that this video brings her great comfort. In fact, she seems to prefer the DVD more than Quentin, who usually asks us to change the channel (via a PEC picture, or gestures) at some point. So even if Quentin does not love this video so much, I feel like we got our money’s worth because Fiona takes great comfort in it, and asks to watch it quite often.
There are quite a few benefits of these videos: The producers really take their time to emphasize the “take home” points during the action by freeze-framing them for a few seconds. Three freeze-frames are re-introduced at the end of every chapter, to serve as a take-away points. The DVD comes with a CD-ROM that contains pictures of these three freeze-frames for each chapter, so you can print them out to serve as reminders for your child. It’s a nice little bonus.
I like that you can navigate to the chapter you need. For example, we could have really used the birthday party chapter right before the twin’s last birthday. (Alas, the DVD had not arrived in time!) Next time Quentin needs a haircut, I know to hit up this DVD the day before.
I have a few minor issues with the DVD. First, there is a huge cast of characters that portray all the stories. While they do take time to introduce all the kids in the cast at the beginning, it does seem like a few too many. I think for teaching simple ideas, a smaller cast of 3-4 kids would have been sufficient. It may get a bit confusing to viewers to have to re-focus on who the “protagonist” is in each of these stories. Simpler is always better for teaching purposes – especially for special needs kids. I also wish the cast introductions were not at the beginning of the DVD, but as the end or featured as an “extra”. (We feel compelled to skip that chapter each time we play it through.)
Secondly, several of the episodes portray more than one “protagonist”. For example, in the Mall chapter (Fiona’s favorite – my girl does like shopping!), we watch as one child enters the mall with his mom, but we also see several other parent-child pairs holding hands as they go along. The last shot is actually a girl with her dad. I find it a bit confusing, and this no longer seems like a social story but just a montage of people in a mall. Not every chapter is this choppy, but this one certainly is.
There are actually two different videos for going to the dentist – one that focuses on what the patient does, and one that focuses on what the dentist does. Visually, these two videos seem almost exactly alike except that the patients are different. If you are listening closely to the lyrics, you can figure out the difference, but I know my minimally-verbal son most likely tunes out the lyrics and focuses on the visuals. For children like Quentin, there must be no difference between these videos, so the second one is only repetitive.
Overall, I think this video is a worthwhile purchase, but I do wish the producers had put some effort into testing the videos with actual children with ASD beforehand. (From their website, this kind of formative research is not mentioned.) For highly visual learners like Quentin, my guess is that the music is actually harder for him to learn from than plain spoken words, like the free app. I think the songs add a another level of stimulation he does not need in order to learn from the pictures.
As I mentioned yesterday in my review of the Model Me Going Places app, Quentin has a very difficult time at the hairdresser. While we have not yet experienced a professional haircut since watching this DVD, I can say one thing – I caught him the other day with a pair of scissors in his hand, trying to cut his hair! It’s moments like these that I am actually somewhat grateful for his lack of fine motor abilities (he was unable to cut anything on his own) – but I will say that this demonstrates directly the influence the Hairdresser chapter has had on him! I feel like he actually understand the reason and purpose for getting a haircut now, and that alone made this DVD worth the purchase for us.
You can purchase Model Me Going Places directly from the Model Me Kids website.